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Mental Health Practitioners’ Use and Attitudes Regarding the Internet and Social Media


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: November 2013 - Volume 19 - Issue 6 - p 454–463
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000438184.74359.88

Objective. Internet-based technologies, such as email and social media, are being increasingly used by mental health providers. The authors created a survey to better understand mental health providers’ practices and attitudes regarding these platforms. Methods. Psychiatrists and psychologists at Columbia and the New York State Psychiatric Institute completed a 24-item multiple choice and free-text survey about their use of and attitudes toward Internet technologies. Results. One hundred and thirty faculty responded to the survey: 70% percent of respondents reported that they were somewhat or more familiar with social media; 20% reported that they sometimes or often searched for information about their patients online; and 60% said that searching for patients online could have a positive role in ongoing psychiatric care. Respondents with fewer years of practice were significantly more likely to use Facebook/Google Plus, texting, and instant messenger in their personal lives, while those with more years of practice were more likely to use Skype professionally. Practitioners who worked in hospital settings were more likely to search online for information about their patients. Practitioners working in outpatient clinics, private practices, and research settings were more likely to use websites, email, and Skype in their practices. Conclusions. Mental health care professionals are starting to incorporate Internet technologies into their professional lives, but they remain divided on the ethics and utility of using these technologies in clinical care. There appear to be differences in practices and attitudes toward the Internet among clinicians with different levels of experience and in different practice settings. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2013;19:454–463)

DEEN: University of California, San Francisco; WITHERS and HELLERSTEIN: Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Serina Deen, MD MPH, University of California, San Francisco, Chinatown North Beach Mental Health Services, 729 Filbert Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.

Copyright © 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.